Transitioning to farm life

January 27, 2017

Growing and shrinking pains

It all started with a dog. A 6-month-old Staffordshire terrier mix from Texas that we adopted in September 2015. You might say it was an attempt to fill a void, or to quell the sudden quiet and cleanliness of our house that was the result of my daughter fleeing the nest to southern California for college.  So, after a short stint of quiet and a string of uncoincidental events we found ourselves with Zoey, our new child.  This little quirky bundle of joy brought an unexpected amount of love and laughter into our lives and gave us a new appreciation for bully breed type dogs.  I quickly found myself identifying with how misunderstood they are.

Meeting Zoey for the first time

We had resisted getting a dog prior to this because we didn’t have a fenced yard.  Fortunately, the rescue group we got Zoey (and named her after) from In The Name of Zoey didn’t require us to have a fenced yard as many do.  We didn’t plan to leave her outside unattended anyway, so her exercise came from group training classes, long walks, hiking, and trips to the dog park. And things were going great.

My un-fenced yard

I still have no idea why I went looking for another dog

One dog was certainly enough. But then I found Angel. Just as I don’t know why I went looking for another dog, I still don’t know what it was about this dog that hooked me.  Yes, she was sweet, loving and cute.  But there was something else. I am still not sure exactly what it was.  It certainly would have been easier to rescue a local dog (and there are plenty that need homes) than to transport a dog from Houston to Washington. But before long I found myself in conversation with Angel’s foster mom from Goodlif3bullyrescue and filling out an application to adopt her.

My significant other did not see it the same way I did. He is definitely the more pragmatic one and insisted that there was no way we could have 2 energetic dogs in a house without a fenced yard.  He was right. And so, the search began!  But in reality, it has always been our plan to downsize our house and move to a larger piece of property where we could live more simply and sustainably once our nest was empty.


My search became obsessive. Zillow and I got to know each other pretty well. I knew every house and piece of property for sale within a 15 mile radius. But nothing.  Nothing in the right area, the right size, for the right price, with the right sunset view property. I began to get very discouraged as the holidays were approaching because that meant we likely wouldn’t find something until spring or summer. Because who moves during the holidays? 

It was a sunny Sunday in fall when we went to the open house. When the listing first came up in my Zillow search I almost dismissed it because of its mere 1272 square feet. Yes, we wanted to downsize, but to something in the range of 1800-2000 square feet, not less than half of the size of our current house! As we parked along the street it became apparent that we were not the only ones Zillow told about this house.  I hadn’t seen so many people at any of the open houses I had been to.  This place was swarming with potential-farmer-wannabees like us. We were one of 3 people that made an offer 2 days later.

Sunset at the farm

Moving in December is not ideal. It’s even less ideal when you are leaving on a two-week trip to go abroad four days later. Suffice it to say it is the end of January 2017 and we are still, box by box, carload by truckload, slowly moving and getting settled in.  Because this house is so much smaller than our other house most of our furniture will not even fit in it, nor will most of the other “stuff” we have accumulated over the years.  Downsizing is difficult.  But getting rid of stuff feels so good.  I feel lighter. I am not one for clutter and tchotchke, but I am one to hold onto that stuffed animal that my daughter slept with when she was a baby or the many Birthday and Christmas cards that my mother, who has now passed, gave me without fail year after year.  It’s a tough battle in my head and heart.

So, what does this all have to do with gardening and landscape design?

Well we now have 5 acres of land…begging to be fenced and cooped, planted and sculpted, mowed and harvested. Going from a 6000 square foot lot to 5 acres is definitely going to be an adjustment. It will be a different kind of garden than at the other house.  Less of an ornamental garden (in most places) yet still beautiful and sustainable. I will have a chance to live what I have only dreamt about for so long. Much of the design will be based on permaculture principles, focusing on growing food, animals and sustainability, while still allowing the plant geek in me to have its way.

Current hen house and chicken coop

There are so many things on the list of to-dos. I hope to have the chicken coop revamped and reconfigured in time to get chicks this spring. Miniature donkeys are also on my list.  Why miniature donkeys?  Because they’re cute, and I have always had a thing for them. I have no further explanation. I have recently added miniature Scottish Highland cows to the list for the same reason (just Google them and you’ll see why). We currently have 1 sheep, 6 geese and two ducks, long time residents of the property that I couldn’t see uprooting.  And yes, Angel arrived on January 7th, the one year anniversary of my mother’s passing.  It was a good day to have a visit from an Angel. The girls are getting along great by the way. I shamelessly post photos of them on Instagram  @thezoeylife.

Zoey and her new sister Angel

Stay tuned for more on our transition to farm life and our attempts to get semi-off grid

The plans include generating energy from solar panels, water harvesting, growing a lot of our own food, chickens (duh), and creating an arboretum and a nursery to store and grow plants for Sublime Garden Design. Follow us on Instagram @sublimegarden or Facebook to see pics of the farm as well as our other projects.



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